A 42-year-old man has died after a tamed elephant at the Mukuni Big Five Safari run over him.
Confirming the incident, Southern Province deputy police commissioner Milner Muyambango said Manson Mukotosi, a Zimbabwean and elephant handler at the Mukuni Big Five animal Safari, died on the spot.
"Mukotosi was doing one of his routine works on the female elephant when it suddenly lost its temper and squeezed him. He sustained a deep wound on the left side of his thigh and he bled profusely. And the elephant also squeezed him so he died on the spot. He could have also suffered some internal injuries," Muyambango said.
He said the incident happened around 10:00 hours on Wednesday.
Muyambango said police picked up the deceased's body, which is currently at Batoka Hospital Mortuary, awaiting postmortem and burial.
"We informed the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) about the incident and they will do their job to find out what could have caused the animal to behave like that," he said.
However, efforts to get comment from Mukuni Big Five management proved futile as no one would comment on the matter.
But Senior Chief Mukuni, who is the director of Big Five Safaris, said he regretted the tragic death of Mukotosi.
In a press release, chief Mukuni said the directors and staff were devastated about the incident and that their thoughts were with the deceased's family.
Chief Mukuni stated that on the fateful day, two successful elephant rides were conducted with all the seven elephants at 07:30 hours and 09:00 hours.
He stated that after the rides, the elephants were taken back to the stables where they had their saddles, removed and released into the bush.
"Up to this juncture, there were no outward signs or indication that something was wrong with any of our elephants," chief Mukuni stated.
He explained that whilst the elephants were feeding in a particularly thick part of the bush, Mukotosi who is one of the senior guides was walking down a path close to where the elephants were.
"The elephant ran out from the bush and over the deceased. At present, it is unclear why this happened, but we guess that she might have been scared by something which caused her to run out," he stated.
Addressing a press briefing later, chief Mukuni assured both local and foreign tourists of safe elephant rides.
"The elephant did not aim to kill the handler because if it aimed to kill him it would have tossed him around but instead it just ran over him and ran away. It was just startled by something. It was just one of those accidents but people have nothing to fear," chief Mukuni said.
"The area in which the accident happened is the same area where another elephant was killed three years ago so the elephants still have memories of what happened. Maybe it was startled by something and that is what caused it to react the way it did."